When it launched back in 2011, PayDay: The Heist looked to shrug off all of the conventional baggage often associated with online first person shooters. Completely doing away with competitive multiplayer, Overkill Software’s debut title instead focused on cinematic four-player co-operative play across a variety of heists.
We reviewed the game post-launch and still stand by our verdict. Though teeming with ambition and interesting ideas, The Heist simply couldn’t deliver on its promises, at least not in the confines of a digital-only budget title. With that said, the game still proved popular, especially among the PC crowd; between launch and October 2012 PayDay sold over 700,000, its continued success no doubt paving the way for the upcoming sequel.
As touched on before, PayDay was chock full of ideas. Perhaps the most interesting was how players could develop their own breed of bank robber, sculpting them to adapt to different tasks. The way the game did this was by presenting three development paths: Assault for those who fancy more firepower, Sharpshooter for precision, and Support to get teammates out of sticky situations. Overkill also went on to add a fourth class, the Technician, capable of deploying sentry turrets.
What was intuitive about these classes was how they seamlessly meshed together thanks to PayDay’s collective XP system. When playing, simply choose one of the paths via the pause menu and all experience will be filtered directly to it, unlocking weapons and upgrades as you go. The result was a mix-and-match style of character progression in which players could opt to take the best bits from every class to suit their own needs when out on a job.
Other interesting ideas included the swathes of contextual mechanics surrounding each heist. From CCTV to hostages and cable-tying civilians, PayDay tried to emulate instances that would occur in real bank heists and robberies. These, however, were notably inconsistent and always stood outside the central ring of core mechanics. A shame really, though it wasn’t PayDay’s biggest caveat…
Each of the in-game missions were clearly designed for co-operative play between four human players. However, Overkill also offered a single player solution for those either without a connection or unable to find a match online.
Put simply, the difference between solo and cooperative play is shocking, the former being not at all recommendable to shooter fans of all skill levels. Partner AI is primitive at best, your fellow thugs idly dragging their knuckles from one gunfight to the next without helping to complete objectives or defend key locations.
For the most part you’ll be babysitting your teammates, watching them get caught off guard by one of the several specialist police units; it wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t also have to perform every mission-specific action yourself. In one particular mission, I had to fly up and down an apartment block deploying and restarting four drills. Once finally done, I was then told to deploy nine C4 charges around the building, with three being the maximum carry capacity.
It’s not even as if Overkill didn’t intend for anyone to play alone. The developer included gestures and call-outs which can be used to alter the behaviour of teammates but, to be quite honest, does little to cover-up the brain dead AI.
If you’re genuinely considering a purchase, make sure you have a group of friends to play with or at least prepare yourself for lengthy matchmaking times. The latter may not be so much of a problem for the PC version, but you really don’t want to leave it to chance.
It’s better to sit waiting for hours or close the game rather than subject yourself to playing PayDay alone. Better yet you could always wait for PayDay 2 – the sequel which is due to launch later this month for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC via Steam.